I went to the Ordain Women event on Saturday, which was a surprising decision, especially if you read my previous post in which I compare the church to an ex-boyfriend. I'm still working out my very complex feelings regarding my motivations for going. A few of them, in no order of importance:
1. A genuine desire to support an idea I believe in: I do believe in equality, everywhere.
2. A genuine desire to mourn with the women who are currently mourning their place in the church. As I watched countless men walk past us into priesthood, none of them making eye-contact with the women standing a few feet away, I was proud to be standing where I was standing. My believing feminist sisters are the robbed and beaten neighbors of my world, their birth-right stolen, and desperately hurting. Sometimes they are different from me, but I cannot by the Levite or the Priest in this story, I must be the Samaritan. I was proud to stand with them, and I was proud to ask to be admitted to the Priesthood session.
3. I don't want to be a quitter. Last year I asked Mormon Women to do something, so when they answered my call, and supported me in wearing pants to church, I didn't want to give up on them when they wanted me to stand in line for Priesthood. I don't want to be a quitter.
So I went, and it was one of the most powerfully painful experiences of my life. Surprisingly painful. It hurt to be physically separated from fellow church members, it hurt to be rejected for what should be a reasonable desire. It hurt to realize that to the institution of the LDS church, I am not worth a whole lot of consideration. Lovely words by Elder Uchtdorf aside, the tangible image of approximately 150 women shivering in line as twelve year old teens walked into the tabernacle reaffirmed a sneaking suspicion that us feminist women don't matter too much.
Especially when church spokesperson Ruth Todd kept reminding people that the women standing in line do not "represent the majority of women" in the church, and called our quiet and peaceful actions "divisive."
In the same breath that church leaders remind us that the church is not a democracy, I'm told that there aren't enough people like me to merit consideration. The church is not a democracy, but apparently you need to have the majority opinion to matter, to be validated, to be welcomed as fellow saints.
As it turns out, the church is not the good Shepard who pursues the one lost sheep.
Then there's this picture. I'm embarrassed by it. I'm embarrassed that I let my vulnerability show to people who don't understand. I'm embarrassed when it is passed around as an example of bravery or courage because mostly I feel like an imposter. I'm a person who has lost a lot in the last ten months, who has given up orthodoxy and belief but is afraid of being a quitter. I don't want to be a quitter. I don't want to feel like this pain is worthless. I don't want to abandon this faith wondering if there was anything I could have done differently or better. I want to do the right thing, even when it is hard and confusing and complicated.
But I also know that I am reaching my own critical mass for pain. My sister posted something I found really hurtful on Facebook page last night, and I lost it. I don't think I can physically handle another person questioning my motives and my heart. I can't. Not after the comments from strangers about pants, not after the messages from old YW leaders, after friends and now family how doubted why I keep going up to the door and fighting for my faith.
I was explaining how I felt very much alone sometimes to a friend, who reminded me that pain and loneliness is sacred. You can't hide from it, and most of the time you experience it alone, in the Gethsemane of your mind. But instead of viewing my pain as something I needed to escape, she taught me that pain is a Christ-like attribute. It allows us to empathize with others walking their own quiet and lonely paths, it allows us to sanctify our minds and our spirits. Pain can be holy, and regardless of the orthodoxy of my belief system, I'm learning to believe in the sacredness of pain.
However, I also believe that pain is an active feeling. It moves and evolves and changes with growth. Pain is sacred and holy so long as we allow it to progress naturally. The moment we let us consume us, it isn't useful anymore. I hit that point last night, where I realized my pain was no longer changing, but static. I can't keep experiencing it the same way as before, it isn't allowing me to grow anymore.
On the way home last night, alone in my car, I pulled up to the driveway just as Rascal Flatt's "Moving On" came on the radio. (Yes, I'm embarrassed about that too.) But suddenly these words meant something to me. Because I realized that it is time for me to move on. It isn't quitting, it isn't wrong, it's just time. It is noble to want to be a Good Samaritan, but until mine comes along, I'm going to have to save myself. I do that by moving on. The pain might not go away, but it will change, and grow, and I'll keep growing too. I've loved like I should but I've lived like I shouldn't/I had to lose everything to find out/Maybe forgivenes will find me somewhere down this road/I'm movin' on.
I don't know what this means for this space, this weird little blog that's seen so much. I just want to write about TV again, honestly. But it feels odd writing with the ghost of my old self in the title. I don't know what I'll do, but I think at least for a while it is time to give this space a break. Thank you to everyone who has followed me here. Thank you for your nice emails and comments, and even the mean ones that made me a better writer. May any God (except Xenu, he gives me the creeps,) be with you 'til we meet again.
Also, here are the lyrics to "Movin' On" in case country music is your thing.
When we first got together, I loved the feelings of safety and security I felt when I was with him. He seemed to have all the answers to life’s big problems. Nothing felt insurmountable with him by my side, guiding and directing me, making it easy to ignore the chaos of the outside world. It felt good to envision my future, our future, together. Back then, if you had told me that he would someday break my heart, I would not have believed you. Our love, a love that began with pioneer ancestors and grew strong at Girl’s Camp testimony meetings and filled the margins of worn scriptures, our love was the real deal.
Plus, my parents loved him.
I don’t know when I started to notice the tiny annoyances. Every relationship has its quirks, after all. He doesn't put the toilet seat down; she never calls when she’s running late. Nothing we couldn't overcome. Nothing he couldn't explain away, nothing I couldn't pray away, nothing I couldn't fix with an increase in righteousness.
It’s not like he was mean. Even when he bothered me, I knew he did it because he loved me. Like sometimes, always so lovingly, he would speak for me. Answering questions in my behalf, and worse, answering my questions wrong.
Sometimes I wondered if he even knew me. If he really knew me, he wouldn't say those things about gay people, or working moms, or the ERA. One time he said he felt threatened by feminists. One time he said women who dressed “immodestly” (I still don’t know why he hates shoulders and knees so much,) were like “walking pornography.” I didn't have the heart to tell him I liked the way my shoulders felt in a sleeveless shirt, how I smiled every time a new freckle appeared after spending too much time in the sun. I couldn't tell him I was a feminist, because I couldn't stand the idea of not being together. I loved him so much, how could he see me as a threat?
Plus, all my friends loved him.
Sometimes he wouldn't let me talk to my friends. He promised to pass the message along to God (so long as I paid my tithing,) and in the temple, he sent a message through my husband. When I asked him why, he told me it was because I was special. I liked feeling special, so I wondered if I really need to be equal. After all, all good relationships require compromise.
But one day I wore pants and someone called me fat (apostate!) and he didn't say a word, and I could tell he kind of agreed. That wasn't a compromise! How do you stay with someone who says you look fat (apostate!) in those pants?
He’s seeing someone else now. She’s nineteen, and he showers her with gifts. Mission calls earlier than ever before, blessings of the priesthood (without the responsibility of holding it! How chivalrous!) He tells her she’s incredible. I tell her she doesn't know what she’s getting into. I didn't know. I didn't know what it meant to go through the temple at age 20. I didn't know what I was promising when I told him I’d never leave, and he promised me the world, maybe even my own world.
Plus, I loved him.
Sometimes he dates feisty Mormon feminists. I see their pictures all over Facebook, and it hurts to see he’s moved on so quickly. She promises that he’ll change if she just loves him enough. I shake my head. Women always think they can change their man. But he gives her a prayer, and he broadcasts the Priesthood session (and even though that’s not what she asked for, she thanks him profusely, because she loves him.)
Maybe someday he will change. I imagine running into him at the park. He’ll be on the playground with his wife and their kids, and he won’t preside and she’ll bless the baby, and they’ll be happy. I’ll wonder, “what if?” What if I’d waited just a little longer, what if I’d just been a little more patient, maybe it would be me. I’d be the one blessing the baby. What if?
Even when you know you’re not meant to be, you never forget your first love.
I remind myself, as all single girls do, that it is important to enjoy being single. I’m dating myself these days, thanks very much. Maybe someday I’ll even feel that thrill of anticipation as I go on a first date with someone new. Someone who doesn't answer for me, who counts the freckles on my shoulders after a long summer day, and isn't threatened by my gender or my power.
Or I’ll grow old all on my own. Surrounded by friends who still answer my calls without an intermediary (I lost a lot of friends in the break up, but not God, so that’s good.) Who see me as special and equal. I’ll get a cat or take a trip. I’ll be okay.
And someday, maybe, I’ll even see him as my friend. We’ll laugh about our crazy young love, and joke about how disastrous it would have been to stay together. I’ll wish him and his wife well, and I’ll mean it. After all, I loved him.